Pew: LGB Americans much less religious than heterosexuals

On Tuesday, Pew released data showing that lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans are nearly twice as likely as heterosexual citizens to identify as religiously unaffiliated, and more than twice as likely to identify as atheist or agnostic.

While a majority of the LGB community remained affiliated with a religious faith, the majority was a narrow 59-41 split unaffiliated. For heterosexual Americans, the breakdown was 78-22 affiliated/unaffiliated. 72% of heterosexuals identified as Christian, compared to just 48% of LGB Americans.

Religiously affiliated LGB respondents were also less likely to identify with a major Christian sub-groupings such as Evangelical or Catholic, with a greater share identifying with smaller denominations.

As it turns out, when your faith is openly hostile toward a specific group of people, members of that group don’t believe what you have to say. Funny how that works.

Despite the fact that the Bible as it was originally written was likely far less fire-and-brimstone about homosexuality than religious conservatives interpret it to be today, the history of religion in the modern era has been marked by persecution and hatred towards those who did not conform to heterosexual norms. LGB Americans are consistently told by religious conservatives of all major faiths — with the Jewish community being only a partial exception — that they are living in sin, condemned both for who they love and for who they are. They are told that their behavior needs to be “corrected” at best and punished with death at worst, and that if the state were to protect them on the basis of their identity it would be “a defeat for humanity.”

Rainbow flag, via Pixabay

Rainbow flag, via Pixabay

Those beliefs are demonstrably outrageous in both moral and empirical bases, which makes them awfully difficult to reconcile with claims of ultimate truth. When you use religion to make claims that are clearly false, you give whoever’s listening a reason to be less religious.

To be clear, the likely reasons why LGB Americans don’t identify as religious, and in particular Christian, are the same reasons why Americans of all sexual identities are dropping their religious affiliations. The politicization of religion, especially around issues pertaining to particularly personal and theologically minor below-the-belt issues, is a turnoff for anyone who doesn’t already hold socially conservative views — a shrinking subset of the population in and of itself. The effects are simply more pronounced within the subset of the population that the Religious Right has been crusading against for decades.

That crusade may have won them a few electoral battles in the short term, but it’s looking like it will lose the war for hearts and minds in the long term.


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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